Just One Minute of Intense Exercise Will Get Healthy Benefits

By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap's Sports Science Expert


Let’s face it. Nobody likes to exercise.

Okay, maybe there are a few of you out there that love spending an hour punishing your bodies through tortuous high intensity workouts. But the trend among many overscheduled adults and kids is to try and get in the minimum amount of movement that will still have a positive effect on their hearts and waistlines.

At first, research told us that an hour a day is the minimum workout length. Then, the celebrity exercise gurus promised us that 30 minutes is all that we really need to get in shape. Now, kinesiology researchers at McMaster University have given us what we all wanted to hear: a single minute of intense, all-out exercise will produce measurable results. Yep, 60 seconds of gut-busting work inside of a ten minute workout done three times per week makes a difference.

Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, gathered 14 healthy but overweight men and women to test a new streamlined workout.  First, the research team tested the volunteers’ muscle biopsies, aerobic endurance, blood pressures and blood sugar levels to gather baseline data.

Then the group jumped on exercise bikes for a sequence consisting of:

  • 2 minute warm-up
  • 20 seconds of all-out, go-hard pedaling
  • 2 minutes of recovery spin
  • 20 more seconds of high intensity pedaling
  • 2 minutes of recovery
  • 20 final seconds of heart-pumping work
  • 3 minutes of warm-down

Add it all up and you have a ten minute workout that includes just one minute of hard work. 

The test group did this three times per week for six weeks then went in to be retested. Overall endurance levels (peak oxygen uptake) went up by an average of 12% while blood pressures decreased by 7%. Glucose decreased in the men but not the women.

“The main finding from the present study was that short-term interval training, using a protocol that involved only 1 min. of very intense exercise within a total time commitment of 10 min., was a potent stimulus to induce physiological adaptations that are linked to improved health in overweight and obese adults,” wrote the research team.

Given this, think of the possibilities. At home with the kids? Take them outside for a 10 minute game of tag chasing them all over the yard. At work, sprint up a few flights of stairs a few times per day. Heck, run in place with high knees for 20 seconds. Bottom line, for you and your kids, there really is no excuse anymore not to be active.

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Dan Peterson is a recovering sports dad who is fascinated with sports science research, skill development and the athlete’s brain. He has written over 400 science-based articles across the Web and consults with parents, coaches and young players to help them understand the cognitive side of sports. You can visit him at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental and at @DanielPeterson.

Release Date: Dec 15 2014

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